I didn’t know how much time had passed, and I had fallen asleep because the next thing I knew, I was waking up to the sound of yelling. I blinked my eyes open but found it hard to focus for a second. My eyes felt swollen and my throat was dry. I licked my dry lips and tried to shake the numbness from my arms and legs. I looked down at my lap and saw Xavier was still unconscious. I let out a small squeak when I heard someone yelling my name.
I stayed quiet and tried to control my breathing. I heard multiple voices calling my name and realized that it was Sarah and the police.
“Alexia! Alexia!” I heard Sarah calling.
I found a renewed courage. They’d found me. My heart filled with hope.
“I’m here,” I tried to yell as loud as I could with my sore throat. They must have heard me because their tone changed. “Alexia, where are you?” I recognized McAdams’s voice.
“Guys! I’m here! Xavier is with me!” I yelled back. I looked down and saw Xavier wince. My shouting must have roused him. His face contorted in pain and he groaned.
I pressed a kiss on his forehead. “Shit! I’m sorry Xavier. But don’t worry, they’ve found us. We’re going to be fine now. I promise,” I whispered against his forehead where my lips rested.
I heard footsteps approaching and looked up to see Grant, Sarah, and McAdams running towards us. They looked surprised to see Xavier and came to sudden stop a foot away from Xavier and me.
“How?” Sarah asked quietly. She was breathing hard, and they all looked really worn out. Grant bent over, putting his hands on his knees and tried to catch his breath.
“Do you know how long we’ve been looking for you?” he choked out.
I hung my head in shame and shook my head. I knew what I had done was wrong. I shouldn’t have run away like that, but if I hadn’t then maybe I would never have seen Michael and found Xavier.
“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.” I said to them, avoiding their gaze. Sarah walked over to me and knelt down beside Xavier.
“What happened? How did you find him?” she questioned while giving me a confused look.
“Michael.” I whispered the one word.
Sarah stared at me in shock. “What?” she gasped.
McAdams and Grant walked towards us. “What happened?” Officer McAdams asked curiously.
“After I ran away, I stopped here to rest. I lay down and was close to falling asleep when I felt someone touch me. When I opened my eyes, there was Michael. I fought him, but he tried to choke me. In the end I got away, but when I was trying to find the paper that you gave me, he was already gone. Just like that. He disappeared.” I explained all of this in a rush.
“Oh god! He tried to kill you!” Grant exclaimed. His eyes were wide with shock.
Sarah furrowed her eyebrows at me. “Why would he try to choke you; I wonder? He could have just bitten you and drunk your blood. As I said before, if he drinks your blood then he is unstoppable.”
I shrugged. “Maybe he doesn’t know that, and maybe he wasn’t hungry either. But he did try to kill me.”
“But what about Xavier?” McAdams asked curiously. He took a closer look at Xavier and winced when he saw his condition.
“After Michael left, I saw Xavier lying there, a few feet from where I was. Michael must have brought him here,” I said quietly while staring at Xavier’s still form. He wasn’t awake yet.
“He didn’t kill Xavier,” Sarah said. It was a statement, but she said it in such an astonished tone, that I swivelled my head towards her in surprise.
“I was sure Michael would have killed him. That’s what he does,” Sarah explained when she saw my look.
I sighed then nodded my agreement. I found it strange too.
“Well, he’s OK, so we should be concentrating on that. Hopefully, he isn’t badly hurt,” McAdams said.
I nodded again. “Does anyone have a water bottle?”
Grant handed me his, and I whispered a thank-you. I drank big gulps, sighing at the refreshing taste. “Do you have a handkerchief?” He nodded and took out a brown handkerchief from his pocket. “God! You are a saviour.” I gave him a small smile as I took it from him.
I dribbled a little water on the handkerchief to wet it then pressed it to Xavier’s forehead. When he grunted, I smiled down at him. I was sure he was going to be OK. I gently wiped his face and neck. When some of the blood was cleaned from his face, I pressed a kiss against his cheek. “C’mon, big guy. It’s time for you to wake up now.”
When there was no response from him, I looked at Sarah. “So what do we do now?” I asked.
“I think we should stay here. Michael came to you, so I’m sure he is keeping an eye on you. If we stay in one spot, he will probably come to us, and we’ll find it easier to trap him,” she whispered.
I nodded and then whispered back. “That was the original plan, but are we going to stick to it?”
When the officers nodded, I took a deep breath and looked at Xavier. “What about him? He really needs a hospital.”
“I know. But we can’t move from here right now. So I think we should wait for him to wake up and see what he wants to do,” Grant suggested.
Everyone was silent for a minute. We were all staring at Xavier, waiting to see any reaction. When there was nothing, no twitch, groan, wince, or grunt, I released a breath. I was tired, sore and frustrated.
“My legs are numb. Can you help me move him?” I asked. Sarah moved closer and put her hands under Xavier’s head to lift it. I swiftly moved away from under his head.
Sarah was about to take my place, but Officer McAdams stopped her. “Let’s move him to that tree. You can lean against it with his head on your lap then. It’s more comfortable,” he recommended. When Sarah nodded, both men helped Xavier stagger to his feet. He was only semi-conscious and they had to support his whole weight. I could see Xavier’s forehead pinched in pain, but that was his only reaction.
Sarah moved to sit against the tree and settled down cross-legged. The officers eased Xavier down and put his head in Sarah’s lap. I saw him hiss in pain, but when Sarah put a soothing hand on his forehead, he settled down. He moved his head into her touch, and for a moment I felt a pang of jealousy, but I quickly shook it away.
I tried to get up, but my legs wouldn’t work. I barely felt them; I had been sitting in the same position for too long. “Officer McAdams, can you help me up? I don’t feel my legs,” I asked quietly. He nodded and came over to me. I took his hand, and he pulled me up. He supported me until I could feel my legs again. “OK, I’m good.” I looked up at him and smiled. “Thank you.”
I walked back and forth, shaking my arms and legs, rolling my shoulders back and forth, relieving all the tense muscles.
I closed my eyes and breathed in, but a sudden darkness consumed me, and Michael’s face flashed behind closed eyelids. All I could see was him leaning over me, red eyes glowing, and trying to choke me. I gasped and opened my eyes quickly, the action bringing me back to reality. I looked around, but I couldn’t see Michael anywhere. Nevertheless, I felt his eyes on me. I felt him watching me. Maybe from a great distance or maybe he was nearer than we thought.
The hair at the back of my neck stood up, and I felt goose bumps forming on my arms. I shivered when I felt a sudden cold wind. I looked at the trees and saw the leaves moving with the wind. If it wasn’t for what was happening with Michael, I would say that it looked so peaceful, calm, and beautiful. But with a monster like Michael roaming around in this forest, it was far from peaceful and tranquil. He tainted the beauty of this forest.
“Hey, what time is it?” I asked suddenly. I had to take my mind off Michael for now.
“It’s 4:15,” Grant replied quickly.
“It’s already 4:15?” I exclaimed, appalled. “The sun is going to set in around three hours.” Sarah and the officers waited for me to explain my statement. “I mean; do you think Michael will make an appearance before then?” I asked.
“I don’t see any bite marks on Xavier, so I’m guessing he didn’t feed. He will probably make an appearance by tonight because I’m sure he knows we’re here,” Sarah replied. Her face was tense.
“Then that’s good. We’ll be prepared,” McAdams said.
Sarah shook her head. “I’m worried. I feel like he is planning something. He didn’t kill Xavier for a reason. It’s like he was warning Alexia, although I don’t know why.” She stopped and looked down before continuing. “He knows we’re here, so why isn’t he coming now? What is he waiting for?”
“So many unanswered questions,” I said gruffly.
“We just need to wait and see. It’s the only option left,” Grant said.
“I just hope he doesn’t attack anyone in town. You know, looking for food,” McAdams added. That was my fear. We were here waiting for him, so we didn’t know what he was planning to do elsewhere.
“Do you think we should wake him up?” I gestured towards Xavier. The two officers came to stand behind me while I knelt down beside Sarah and gently held Xavier’s hand in mine. I gave it a little squeeze and moved closer to him and leaned next to his ear. “Xavier, c’mon, big guy. I need you to wake up now,” I said softly.
When he didn’t move, I looked at Sarah with worried eyes. “I’m worried about him. What if he has a concussion?”
“I guess you’re right. We should wake him up. He’s been unconscious for too long,” Sarah replied nervously.
I grabbed his shoulder and gently shook him. I must have grabbed him where he was wounded because he winced. I immediately took my hand off his shoulder and went back to holding his hand. “Xavier. Wake up,” I ordered loudly.
Sarah tapped his forehead, and he groaned. He tried to move away from Sarah’s hand, but it must have caused him discomfort because he stopped and sucked in a pained breath. I saw him trying to blink his eyes open, and I smiled. “It’s me. Alexia. C’mon, open those gorgeous eyes for me,” I crooned next to his ear.
He slowly opened both of his swollen eyes, but quickly shut them. “Sun,” he rasped.
I noticed that the sun was shining directly into his eyes. Grant and McAdams moved closer, shielding us from the sun. I cupped Xavier’s cheek gently. “OK, you can open them now. The sun won’t hurt your eyes.”
His eyes flickered open, and he stared directly at me. “Alexia?” he asked, confused. I gave him a soft smile and rubbed his cheeks. “Yes. It’s me. I’m here,” I soothed.
“What happened?” he whispered. I sighed and looked at Sarah, then peeked at Xavier again.
“Michael got you.”
Xavier’s eyes widened in shock. He opened his mouth but then closed it with a snap. He groaned in pain and closed his eyes.
“Do you remember anything?” Grant asked quietly.
Xavier gave a slight nod then said, “Yeah, he came to the hospital. I remember him bashing my head against the wall, but everything after that is blank.”
“It’s OK. You’re fine now,” I said. As soon as the words were out, his eyes snapped open. He tried to push himself away from Sarah, but hissed again in pain.
“Xavier, lie still,” I admonished.
“Aric. What happened to him? Is he OK?” he wheezed through his discomfort.
I nodded my head quickly. The mere thought of something happening to Aric made me shudder. “The police said no casualties. I think he’s OK. He has to be OK.”
“Oh, thank god.” Xavier closed his eyes again.
I leaned my head against the tree trunk and breathed out slowly. My whole body was aching.
Sarah and the officers were slumping with exhaustion too. They looked so weary.
“Is it safe?” I asked out loud. Sarah shook her head slowly.
“It’s never safe. He can come at any time.”
“Maybe we should go back to town. Michael is playing with us. Hide and seek. We’ve looked for him, but he comes at the most unexpected times,” McAdams said quietly.
“We can’t move. Xavier is too weak, and we should stay together,” I replied.
I was not going to take the risk of separating again. Last time was my fault. I was attacked because I had carelessly run away.
Xavier opened his eyes again. “McAdams is right. We should go back to the town and wait for Michael there.”
“But you can’t walk.”
“Alexia, I can manage,” Xavier replied. “I have to.” He tried to move from Sarah’s lap but ended up huffing with exhaustion and pain. Both officers moved closer and helped him up. Xavier’s eyes were pinched in agony.
I quickly got up and stood in front of them. “Xavier, are you sure?”
“We’ll help him,” Grant said before Xavier could reply. I stared at Xavier’s determined face and finally gave up. He wasn’t going to listen to me.
I looked behind me, at Sarah. She was standing up too and gave me a slight smile. “I’m sure Michael will re-appear in town again. He needs to feed and we’ll just wait there.”
I reluctantly nodded. I didn’t want to think about Michael feeding.
“So which way is the town?” I asked. “We’re practically in the middle of nowhere.”
“Actually, we’re closer to the town,” Sarah replied. I looked at her in surprise. She nodded and pointed. “Sometimes I take this route. Ten to fifteen minutes and we’ll reach town.”
“So we just walk straight. There’s no turning left or right?” McAdams asked.
“Yeah, just straight. And the woods aren’t very dense here, so it should be easy,” Sarah responded quietly.
“OK, here we go. Ready, Xavier?” Grant asked while looking at Xavier’s limp form.
“Yeah, ready as I can be,” Xavier said with a small chuckle.
Sarah walked in front of us and led the way. We walked in silence. Just the sound of our feet crunching dried leaves. We walked for several minutes until I heard Xavier whimper.
“Can we rest for a while?” he croaked out. Both men helped Xavier lean against a tree. The poor guy looked dehydrated.
“Do we have any more water?” I asked.
Sarah shook her head. “No. I gave you the last bottle.”
Everyone looked so tired. Color had drained from Sarah’s cheeks and her body was sagging. She was barely holding herself up. I looked at the police, and both had their eyes closed. Their lips were dry and bleeding.
I was pretty sure I looked the worst. My whole body was aching and my throat was hurting.
“We need to move. Xavier, are you ready?” Sarah asked. Her voice was soft and barely audible. Xavier nodded his head once, but kept his eyes closed. Both officers helped him up.
We resumed walking, but more slowly this time. By the time we reached the opening of the woods where we could see the town, our tense shoulders sagged in relief.
“We’re here.” I said softly, smiling at myself.
“Let’s go. A couple of yards. I can see the hospital,” Officer Grant replied.
Balancing on tiptoes, I looked and saw that he was right. The hospital wasn’t so far. Sarah and I followed the guys.
I could see the shocked expressions on people’s face when they saw us. Gasps and silent oh my gods echoed around us.
An elderly woman approached us. “Do you need help?” She stared at us in utter confusion and pity. “Was it that monster?” she asked. Her voice was soft, and she had kind eyes. I knew what she meant by that monster. Michael. All the town knew about him because of the attacks in the last few days. He had showed his cruelty and deadly power everywhere. The savage attacks during those last few days had made everyone fearful. I could see the fear in their eyes.
“We just need to get to the hospital,” Sarah replied to the old lady. “Her brother is there,” She pointed at me.
“OK, honey. Be safe.” The woman nodded and started to walk away.
I took two steps forward before stopping. I turned back around and faced the woman. “Wait.” She came to an abrupt stop and faced me. “What is your name?” I asked softly.
“Everyone calls me Mama Lily.” She gave me a sweet smile before walking away. I stared at her retreating back before jogging to catch up with the others.
Several people came towards us to help. The officers got a break from carrying Xavier when two young men came to help.
In the emergency room, I wasn’t surprised to see it filled with people. Nurses and doctors were running around. There were kids crying and adults milling around and the scent of blood was in the air.
A blonde nurse came over to us, took one look at Xavier and said briskly, “Your wounds need to be treated right away. C’mon, we need to get you clean and bandaged up,” she said and helped Xavier to a cubicle.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and quickly swivelled around. Sarah gave me sheepish look and apologized quietly for scaring me. “Go to your brother. I’ll stay here with Xavier.” She nodded towards the stairs.
I thanked her and looked at the officers. “We’ll be here,” Grant replied to my silent inquiry.
I ran to the stairs. Taking two stairs at a time, I reached the second level faster. I was gasping for breath by the time I reached Aric’s room, and my legs were weak from all the walking and running that day.
Aric’s door was ajar. I pushed it open and caught sight of him lying on the bed. Two other beds and two more patients had been added to the room. I could see that they were both sleeping.
I sat down beside Aric and held his hands in mine. His eyes were pinched closed and there was a frown curving his lips. It made my heart thud against my chest because he looked in pain even in his sleep.
I laid my head beside his arm and softly caressed his hand. Even though he was badly hurt, I was so happy he was alive. My mother wasn’t so lucky. She had died a painful death. I closed my eyes and thought about how many people I had come close to losing, Aric, Mrs. Colleway, Xavier and even William. They all meant so much to me, and their death or near deaths made me realize how quickly I needed to terminate the monster who had caused all this mayhem. Michael. Just thinking of his name made me shudder. I still had the feeling that I was being watched. By him. In the forest, at home, and here at the hospital.
I felt Aric’s hand move in mine, and I quickly looked up at him. His eyes were open but not focused. I leaned closer to him to catch his attention.
“Hey, Aric. How are you feeling?” I asked gently. He blinked then shook his head. Aric brought his other hand to his throat and looked at me desperately.
“What is it?” I asked, alarmed. I could see he was getting agitated.
“Throat…hurt…” he rasped. “Hurt…badly…” His eyes were full of panic, and I quickly pushed the button to call the nurse.
“Hey, it’s OK. You’re safe. I think your throat hurts because you didn’t have water for so long,” I reasoned with him. He stared at me, and some of the panic faded from his eyes, but his body and expression were still tense.
“The nurse is coming,” I said, soothingly.
He relaxed a little, and I squeezed his hand in reassurance and scooted a little closer to his bed. “I have so much to tell you, but I need you to be strong.”
He nodded but then winced. “Hurts… body…pain…” He tried to talk again, but I shushed him before he could say anything else.
“I know. It sucks to be stuck in bed and always in pain, but it’s going to be over soon. Just concentrate on getting better.”
Aric closed his eyes for a moment, but when the door opened and the nurse came bustling in, he opened his eyes in panic. “It’s OK,” I said gently. “She is going to check you over and most likely give you something for your throat.”
He gave me a half smile. “You…should… be a nurse…” He wheezed through the whole sentence. His words made me laugh because if I remembered correctly, he had once told me I would be a terrible nurse.
I looked out of the window then briskly sobered. To laugh after such a terrible ordeal was strange, and we still had so much to do. Michael was still out there, and we didn’t have any idea how to trap him. I waited for the nurse to leave after she’d given Aric some water to drink and some pain medication. I thanked her before she left and turned back to my brother.
“We’ve found a way to kill Michael, but it’s dangerous. Obviously. He was technically cursed by a witch. She made him what he is today, and I’m the only one who can kill him for good,” I said to him in a rush.
Aric’s eyes were wide, and he looked confused. “What do you mean?” He could speak better now, but his voice was still rough.
I stood up and paced his room. I glanced at the other two patients, but they were still sound asleep. I went over to the curtains that separated their beds from Aric’s and pulled them close.
I faced my brother again, but wondered how to explain to him that I was supposedly a witch’s reincarnation? And that in my past life, she’d deceived the one that she was supposed to love, and now I had to kill him because she had made him into a monster? It was confusing even to me. I had never believed in reincarnation or witches, and all of a sudden I was both.
I took a deep breath and looked into my brother’s eyes. They were encouraging and that prompted me to start my story.
“I’m the reincarnation of a witch who was born in the 1400s….” I began to tell Aric everything that Sarah told me. I started to pace as I couldn’t stare at his shocked gaze anymore. I told him everything, about the encounter with Michael in the forest, and how he had hurt Xavier and nearly killed me.